M.F.A. Screenwriting and Playwriting Alumnus John Spare's Screenplay "Condition of Return" Opening in Six Major Markets Alumni Profile
Meet John Spare '17
- Job Title & Employer
- Senior Digital Marketing Specialist, Foster Web Marketing
- Writing for the Stage and Screen-M.F.A.
- Elizabeth, Pa.
- Hobbies & Interests
- Writing, film studies, music, reading, Pittsburgh Pirates baseball, spending time with my family
"If you dream of being a screenwriter, it's imperative that you surround yourself with like-minded creatives. I was able to watch, learn and be involved in the work of my talented classmates, and that is something that can't be experienced writing in a room by yourself. It's crucial to have that immediate give and take available in order to push you to explore where your story wants to take you."
You recently wrote and sold a screenplay, which is now a feature film opening in six major markets. Tell us more about this film.
I started working on the screenplay of what would become "Condition of Return" in 2010. The script evolved through several dozen drafts and was optioned by director/producer Tommy Stovall of Pasidg Productions in early 2015. The film revolves around two characters, an elementary teacher who committed a horrible crime in order to receive the death penalty as well as the psychologist assigned to ensure she is sane and fit to stand trial.
It took several years for Tommy to bring the story to life — largely due to the pandemic — however, the time was well spent as it allowed him and producer Marc Sterling to acquire funding, as well as gaining the interest of an elite cast including Dean Cain ("God's Not Dead"), AnnaLynne McCord ("Nip/Tuck"), Natasha Henstridge ("Species") and James Russo ("Donnie Brasco").
Highlight your career path and what led you to pursue an M.F.A. and create this screenplay.
The idea for this specific screenplay came from asking, "Why are there so many mass shootings that seem to have become commonplace these days? How is this acceptable? Why would someone commit these violent acts?" Asking these questions took me down my own personal rabbit hole so to speak. I doubt we will ever get any real, concrete answers to these questions, however, as a storyteller I found myself continuing to come back to the idea that possibly, in their own distorted worldview, what if the culprit of a similar massacre actually had, at least in their mind, a very real reason to take action?
Once the script was optioned, I realized quickly that I needed to learn as much as possible about the art and craft of screenwriting. My research prompted me to look into Point Park University's Low-Residency M.F.A. in Screenwriting and Playwriting program, and I requested a meeting with the then program director Nelson Chipman. I'll never forget that meeting as it literally changed the course of my career and my life. I was accepted into the program and have never looked back!
Tell us about your experience as an M.F.A. student.
I can't stress enough how my experience in the M.F.A. program has not only helped me become a better writer, but also helped me gain a position with an amazing company, Foster Web Marketing. The ability to learn how to take and give notes to fellow writers was very eye-opening. Discovering how to incorporate theme, symbolism, relatable protagonists and the various methods to help create a memorable story — literally from a germ of an idea — is still something I utilize in all areas of my life and work.
What advice do you have for students considering Point Park’s M.F.A. program?
If anyone out there has the dream of being a screenwriter it's imperative that you surround yourself with like-minded creatives. Having the opportunity to really learn the craft from experienced writers like Matt Pelfrey and Elise D'Haene is an experience I will treasure forever. Add to this the fact that I was also able to watch, learn and be involved in the work of my talented classmates is something that can't be experienced writing in a room by yourself. It's crucial to have that immediate give and take available in order to push you to explore where your story wants to take you.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes! "Condition Of Return" opens nationwide in six major markets September 22, 2023, as well as a special event screening at the Harris Theater in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh premiere is September 27. Tickets will be available online soon.